Concerto in E-Flat Major for Two Pianos, K. 365
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Length: c. 25 minutes
Orchestration: 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings, and 2 solo pianos
Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos, K. 365, was written in 1779, shortly after his return to Salzburg. He had recently completed a two-year European tour, the purpose of which was to find a more prosperous form of employment. He visited the cities of Mannheim, Paris, and Munich, all of which seemed to offer promising positions, but none came to fruition. What was gained from the trip, however, was exposure to the varied musical styles that were beginning to gain popularity across Europe.
Upon returning home, Mozart took a position as court organist in Salzburg. He quickly settled in and began composing a string of new works based on the styles he had heard in his travels. He chose to focus primarily on the double concerto form, quickly realizing that to be successful he would need a slightly different approach than that which he was used to. Traditionally, his concertos would contain interplay between the soloist and the orchestra, but Mozart noticed that the texture grew too thick when one soloist became two. He resolved this concern by scaling back the role of the orchestra, having it become more of an accompanist rather than a leading voice. The change created the necessary space for a dialogue to occur, allowing the soloists to advance the musical narrative through their virtuosic lines.
The two solo parts in this concerto are of equal difficulty and importance. Their first entrance comes unaccompanied, following a jaunty introduction from the orchestra. The buoyant music is lively yet sweet, the soloists playing off one another in such a way that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. The first movement comes to a close with a rousing cadenza that dips into a minor key, the tonal shift captivating the listener. This lasts only a moment though, the tonality quickly turning back to major as the orchestra concludes with a whimsical arpeggiation.
The second movement also begins with an orchestral introduction, a plaintive oboe crying mournfully above the strings. The pianos enter unaccompanied once again, their playful banter both beautiful and charismatic. Both the soloists and the orchestra share the theme, each taking turns to accompany the other.
The final movement, a rondo, is both exuberant and bombastic. It contains the same degree of liveliness the first movement had, but with larger, statelier scoring. The concerto comes to a close with a brilliant cadenza followed by a brief, but fantastic orchestral flourish.